The impact of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic on mental and social health of children and adolescents
*Corresponding author for this work
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › Academic › peer-review
Purpose: During the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands, governmental regulations resulted in a lockdown for adults as well as children/adolescents. Schools were closed and contact with other people was limited. In this cross-sectional, population-based study, we aimed to investigate the mental/social health of children/adolescents during COVID-19 lockdown. Methods: Two representative samples of Dutch children/adolescents (8–18 years) before COVID-19 (2018, N = 2401) and during lockdown (April 2020, N = 844) were compared on the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) domains: global health, peer relationships, anxiety, depressive symptoms, anger, sleep-related impairment by linear mixed models and calculating relative risks (RR (95% CI)) for the proportion of severe scores. Variables associated with worse mental/social health during COVID-19 were explored through multivariable regression models. The impact of COVID-19 regulations on the daily life of children was qualitatively analyzed. Results: Participants reported worse PROMIS T-scores on all domains during COVID-19 lockdown compared to before (absolute mean difference range 2.1–7.1 (95% CI 1.3–7.9). During lockdown, more children reported severe Anxiety (RR = 1.95 (1.55–2.46) and Sleep-Related Impairment (RR = 1.89 (1.29–2.78) and fewer children reported poor Global Health (RR = 0.36 (0.20–0.65)). Associated factors with worse mental/social health were single-parent family, ≥ three children in the family, negative change in work situation of parents due to COVID-19 regulations, and a relative/friend infected with COVID-19. A large majority (> 90%) reported a negative impact of the COVID-19 regulations on daily life. Conclusion: This study showed that governmental regulations regarding lockdown pose a serious mental/social health threat on children/adolescents that should be brought to the forefront of political decision-making and mental healthcare policy, intervention, and prevention.